It wasn't the perfect ending, but it still was sweet for Birmingham Bulls goalie Leeor Shtrom.
Making his first start against his former team at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, Shtrom was within 24 seconds of pitching a shutout.
Lynx winger Dean Tiltgen spoiled it with a clutch short-handed goal that tied the game 1-1, but Shtrom and the Bulls prevailed in the end, taking a 2-1 shootout victory before a crowd of 4,622 fans Saturday night.
Shtrom made 27 saves in regulation and three more in the 4-on-4 overtime before stopping all three Lynx attempts in the shootout. Meanwhile, the Bulls scored on three of their first four attempts against Augusta goalie Reg Bourcier.
Birmingham got its regulation goal from Neal Rech, who cashed in on a Lynx turnover with his second goal of the year at 8:19 of the second period, while the game-winner in the shootout was credited to Eduard Pershin, who beat Bourcier on the Bulls' second attempt.
Though it was Birmingham's (13-17-3) first win in three tries against Augusta this season, even the Lynx went home happy.
Led by a strong effort by Bourcier in his first start since Dec. 9, the Lynx came away with a tie in the standings, thanks to the quirky ECHL standings format.
That gives the Lynx (15-16-4) three out of a possible four points on the weekend in their first two games since the firing of coach Scott MacPherson last Sunday. It also sends the coaching tandem of general manager Paul Gamsby and playerassistant coach Louis Dumont riding off into the sunset undefeated at 1-0-1.
"This was a tough week for these guys for a lot of reasons," said Gamsby, who named former Western Pro league coach Jim Burton the team's new head coach Saturday. "There were a lot of outside pressures that didn't need to be there, and they battled through it."
With the Lynx last year, Shtrom made his first and only start of the season in the final game of the 1999-2000 campaign. In an eerily similar result, the 25-year-old Montreal native shut out the South Carolina Stingrays until the closing minutes of the third period. He ended up with 51 saves in regulation before coming up on the losing end of a 2-1 overtime decision.
Over the summer, Shtrom was traded to the Florida Everblades for cash. Though he didn't get to show MacPherson what he dealt away, Shtrom - whom the Bulls signed as a free agent in November after he was released by Florida - ultimately got his revenge.
As for Bourcier, whose arrival in Augusta essentially led to Shtrom's departure, he may have been outdueled by Shtrom, but he certainly wasn't outplayed. The 20-year-old rookie finished with 34 saves, singlehandedly keeping the Lynx in the game after a lackluster opening 40 minutes.
"Reggie really held us in there, quite frankly," Gamsby said. "I thought he played outstanding."
"I wish I did better in the shootout, but all in all, one point is not too bad a game," Bourcier said.
The Bulls outshot the Lynx 26-15 through the opening two periods, including a 16-6 margin in the second, but Bourcier was extremely sharp despite limited playing time of late.
Of his 15 saves in the period, several came during a four-minute Birmingham power play with Lynx defenseman Tom O'Connor off for a double high-sticking minor after he accidentally struck Bulls captain Jamey Hicks in the face.
The game remained 1-0 until late in the third. After a Lynx timeout with 1:06 remaining, Gamsby and Dumont challenged the curve of a Bulls player's stick, hoping to get a penalty call. But when referee Ron Morgan determined it was a legal curve, the Lynx were penalized for delay of game, giving the Bulls a late power play.
With Bourcier pulled for an extra skater, a point shot by defenseman Wes Swinson went wide of the net and ended up on Lynx center Lars Pettersen's stick. From behind the net, Pettersen fed it to the slot, where Tiltgen buried a one-timer past a defenseless Shtrom.
NOTES: Gamsby gave the team the day off today. ... Defenseman Denis Chervyakov did not dress Saturday as he continues to battle the flu. The 30-year-old Russian, who missed practice earlier in the week, played a few shifts in the first period of Friday's 4-2 win over Richmond.